Project to Help Restore Courthouse Creek Area of Pisgah National Forest

Release Date: Sep 25, 2013

Contact(s): Stevin Westcott, (828) 257-4215

Courthouse Creek in winter

Changes to Project Address Public Concerns

PISGAH FOREST, N.C., Sept. 25, 2013 – The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina today unveiled the final decision for the Courthouse Creek project in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest.

“The Forest Service designed the Courthouse Creek project to fulfill management objectives in the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan,” said Derek Ibarguen, Pisgah District ranger. “During the 4-5-year project, the agency will implement a variety of management activities to improve ecological diversity, as well as promote forest health and sustainability.

The Forest Service’s management practices will help:

  • Restore brook trout habitat by replacing culverts that restrict movement of aquatic life;
  • Improve habitat for wildlife, including game species such as turkeys and non-game species, as well as a forest concern species, the golden winged warbler;
  • Maintain a variety of hardwood tree species;
  • Remove non-native invasive species;
  • Protect water quality by addressing sedimentation and maintenance issues such as replacing bridges and culverts;
  • Plant hybrid American Chestnut trees as a first step toward restoring them to Southern Appalachian forests; and
  • Designate an additional 127 acres of old growth forest areas.

Sustainable timber harvesting may begin as early as 2015. There will be 30 harvest sites that range in size from 4 to 34 acres. Trees will be harvested on a total of 435 acres, dispersed across the 7,000-acre Courthouse Creek area, 6 percent of the area. No clear cuts will take place, and no new roads will be constructed.

No threatened or endangered species are known to occur in activity areas. Two sensitive and three forest concern species are known to occur in activity areas. The project is designed to reduce potential impacts and will not affect species viability.

“We received a number of comments about the project when the environmental assessment was issued last December,” said Ranger Ibarguen. “We modified the project to address stakeholders’ concerns, and I believe the end result is a project that is good for the land, the wildlife and the people who enjoy Courthouse Creek.”

Based on feedback received from the public, the Forest Service made the following changes to the project:

  • Thirty-seven (37) acres of timber harvesting, located near the Art Loeb Trail and within the Pisgah Ridge/Pilot Mountain State Natural Heritage Area (SNHA), have been eliminated from the project. SNHAs are identified by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
  • Originally 177 acres of timber harvests were proposed in the Pisgah Ridge/Pilot Mountain SNHA. Because of a recent change in the SNHA boundary and removing some of the harvest areas, only 65 acres of timber harvest will occur within the SNHA, approximately 1 percent of the area.
  • The Tribal Historic Preservation Office and State Historic Preservation Office concur with the project activities and design. No impacts to significant cultural resources will occur.
  • Scenic quality will be maintained by implementing measures such as leaving a larger number of trees in timber harvest areas seen from important viewpoints including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Art Loeb Trail, Mountains to Sea Trail and Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.
  • Connectivity remains for hiking and biking to Route 215 via the gated road system.

The management activities developed for the Courthouse Creek project are permitted under and consistent with the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan. The Courthouse Creek area is located in Transylvania County in the Pisgah Ranger District, which encompasses approximately 160,000 acres of the Pisgah National Forest.

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